A great design has more than just what you see outside. It’s also about the meaning of the work: what are the values, what is it made of and where does it come from?
We got a collaboration request from a Finnish designer living in USA. Because our mission is to help Finnish designers to grow their business and export to US markets, this collaboration was definitely something we got really interested in. We collaborate ONLY with the brands we believe in and that have the same values as we do. So let us introduce you, the woman behind STUDIO M KERAMIK, Mia Suni!
Who are you
I am a Finnish ceramist originally from Turku but kind of wagabond world citizen at the moment. I didn’t study ceramics or other arts in my youth for the simple reason that my parents didn’t think one could make a steady living being an artist. And now as a mother of two I understand their concern… So I became a full time ceramist only a few years ago after having held a number of “serious” but unfulfilling jobs.
How did you end up living in the States
Due to my husband’s work we have lived in a few different countries over the past 10 years and in summer 2016 it was time to start packing for Boston. I was happy to discover the large variety of ceramics studios in the Boston area, knowing I would be able to continue working with clay without major interruptions. And when I got the opportunity to deepen my knowledge at the Harvard Ceramics Program – how could I resist?
Could you describe what kind of products and categories are included in your collection
At the moment the porcelain jewellery is my main focus area. Before I got into jewellery and what I still occasionally do is tableware and decorative items in both stoneware clay and porcelain. I have a line of decorative birds that I call the FatBirds. They come in few different colors and sizes. These birds were kind of my trademark in the beginning in one of the Boston area studios where I became known as “the bird lady”.
I have a tableware collection with coffee mugs and small plates as well as serving bowls and vases. All my work is hand built, meaning that it’s not thrown on potters wheel. This gives them an organic and irregular look and feel, which I prefer. My current colour palette is mostly different shades of white with an occasional accent color. The FatBirds and birch log pendants were the first jewellery pieces I created. A common denominator to all my jewellery is simple and timeless design. I want my pieces to be stylish evergreens rather than follow the latest trends.
Could you tell us about the process of your whole production process? And what exactly are ceramics
Today there are many different commercial clay mixes available. Unlike other clay types, porcelain doesn’t exist in the nature as it is, so it has always been a man made clay – the Chinese being the first ones to figure out how to produce it. However its ingredients are rather commonly present in the soil, so these days it is relatively easy to make porcelain almost anywhere in the world. Compared to other clays its whiteness, smoothness and durability are unparalleled, but on the other hand it is also more challenging to work with. Too wet it sticks everywhere, too dry it crumbles all over the place.
Most functional ceramics are fired at least two times, the highest temperatures reaching over 1300C. If glazes are to be applied that happens after the first firing. The firing process takes several hours, slow cooling is as essential as the high temperatures to prevent cracks from forming during the cooling phase. But the rewarding feeling when opening a ready kiln is all worth the wait.I like giving my jewellery a little extra touch using a product called gold lustre. Gold lustre consists of pure 14k gold which has been dissolved in a solvent base that allows application with a thin paint brush. The use of gold lustre requires a third round of kiln firing where the supporting components burn off and the gold particles are permanently sealed to the underlying surface.
Ecology is an upcoming trend and ceramics are a known method for hundreds – actually thousands of years. Are we going back to the roots from the plastic “trash”? What do you think about all this, and especially the natural materials being a huge part of it
There is definitely a growing eco-awareness going on and more importantly also a willingness to make a change, whether it’s called slow life, downshifting, minimalizing or other. I think it’s a very positive sign that for example for several years now ceramic cooking pans have been replacing plastic coated non-stick pans in the market. I believe consumers are realising that people have been cooking food in ceramic pots for thousands of years but we may not have yet seen the health impacts of cooking with plastic pans, knowing that many plastics are petroleum based products… On the other hand there is also a growing appreciation of unique small-scale products. In many areas of daily life, taking distance with mass-produced items seems to be trendy at the moment – and I think it’s a very good trend.
“There is definitely a growing eco-awareness going on.”
Where did you get the idea of becoming a designer
In my “previous life” I did PR and marketing for Scandinavian design in the Middle East and came to know many Nordic design houses quite well. When writing about an emerging furniture designer or promoting a design event I often felt a very strong connection to the people I was doing PR for and that my real place was on the other side, among the designers.
Things started to crystallise when we moved back to Finland for a short while and I started to work with clay after a long break. So I never really decided to become a designer, it just happened very naturally. Later when I started experimenting with porcelain jewellery, I figured that this is also something I can keep doing even when I travel back to Finland every summer. All I need is a some porcelain clay, my small bag of tools and access to a kiln.
“So I never really decided to become a designer,
it just happened very naturally.”
The nature of your products is very Finnish. How do people around the world like this kind of design? Are they asking you about your inspiration sources while you’re living abroad
Generally speaking my products and my style have been received well here in the US. My jewellery and ceramics are quite different, more modern and feel lighter compared to the general market here. I was surprised actually how different the American mainstream style is. People spot the Nordic style very quickly, even though I’m not aiming to create particularly Finnish looking pieces. Inspiration for a new piece can come to me from almost anything in my surroundings; a modern bridge, a piece of wood or a nice font. But I do give most of my designs Finnish names and emphasise the Finnish connection in that way.
Some people here wonder if the jewellery breaks easily, because it looks so delicate. What comes to handling my jewellery pieces I like to compare it with pearls or crystal jewellery. Even though I use a very durable high fire porcelain it can chip if it falls on a stone floor, so I advice my customers to remove it when working out at the gym, while gardening or during other situations that might expose the jewellery to brutal hits.
Where can we buy your products and what kind of expenses (like customs) do we need to pay when buying your designs
In Finland you can buy some of my products at the Design museum shop and design store TRE in Helsinki as well as boutique hotel Pariisin Ville in Porvoo. Online purchases can be made in my own web-shop www.m-galleria.com, as well as weecos.com, and madeby.fi.
Now that I live and produce my collections in the US I must also ship them from here. The customs duty limit in Finland is 150€. When an order surpasses that limit I contact my customers to arrange the most convenient shipping method. All shipments in the US are free.
What would you say to your 20-year-old self now? And where do you see yourself and your brand when you’re 70
My advice to any young person – actually to anyone trying to figure out his/her professional path would be to listen to your inner voice more than opinions around you. Observe the difference between what you yourself genuinely like and things that you like but what you have adopted from other people. There can be a subtle but significant difference.
Do what pleases you and not what pleases other people. If you’re on vacation in the Bahamas but can’t wait to get back to work, you’re on the right track. I first started with ceramics as a hobby when I was 17 and what I made back then was very different from my current work. So what I make now will probably evolve over the years but I can easily see myself still going strong at 70 and beyond!
“Listen to your inner voice more than opinions around you.”
Mia’s work values
Slow design and timelessness – Mia’s work acts as a daily reminder to slow down, to aim towards a slower life:
“You cannot rush the clay, you cannot rush the firing process (without serious consequences). Getting into the hectic chaos is not something we must remind ourselves of, it’s the opposite. Working with very durable materials I also aim to create long lasting designs that are timeless and easy to wear even many years later”.
“Organic feel and natural imperfections became
my new way of working with clay”
Natural simplicity – Clay as an earthy raw material has particular calmness in it, which Mia aims to emphasize with her tranquil and light designs:
“I like to leave at least parts of my work unglazed to reveal the natural smoothness of untreated porcelain”.
Organic uniqueness shows in Mia’s work.
“We are all truly unique individuals, so should our jewelry be. Some may look similar but no two individuals are exactly the same.”
Follow Mia on Instagram: @studio_m_keramik